Thoughts on Evan Mobley and James Bouknight

December 3rd, 2020

By Alan Lu

I took the time to watch Evan Mobley and USC play against James Bouknight and Connecticut in an early season college basketball game.  I hadn’t been able to get around to watching Mobley play in a college game yet, and had long looked forward to doing so, and seeing him play against another first round prospect was a treat to watch. 

While Evan Mobley didn’t exactly have the dominant game I was expected, he still had a solid showing nonetheless, as he consistently seemed to make good plays on both ends of the floor.  James Bouknight had a terrific first half, and he played even better than I thought he would.  While he slowed down a bit in the second half, Bouknight looks to be a solid prospect that could be the complete package for an NBA team at the next level.  Here are my thoughts on how both Mobley and Bouknight fared, and how their games may translate as prospects for the NBA.

USC’s freshman center, Evan Mobley (pictured blocking an opponent’s shot) had a solid showing in his team’s loss to Connecticut, and he is a very athletic big man whose solid interior skills combined with his playmaking skills makes him a likely top 5 pick for the 2021 draft.
(Photo: Jessica Hill/AP, via The Los Angeles Daily News)

USC’s 7-0 freshman center, Evan Mobley played fairly well in his team’s loss to Connecticut.  He would frequently score inside the paint, and he also displayed solid passing, shot blocking, and defensive skills in this game. 

Mobley showed a fairly good ability to score both off the dribble and in the post.  He can handle the ball using either hand, and he is a patient player that can use dribble moves to score on jump hooks and layups.   He also was able to make a turnaround jump hook after using a jump stop and a pivot move to score from around the mid-range off the dribble.

When Mobley was aggressive in looking for his shot, he showed that he can score both off the dribble in the post and find ways to draw numerous fouls to often get to the free throw line.  However, sometimes he would struggle to find his touch on jump hooks, and he also had a fadeaway jumper blocked another time.  He seemed to do a better job of taking opponents off the dribble than looking to post up with his back to the basket, but Mobley was effective as a scorer down low to generate many fouls and free throws to help his team.

He also excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  Mobley was able to score on a quick, strong put back off of an offensive rebound due to possessing very good size, athleticism, and motor.  He also ran the floor and got the ball on the break, and he was able to draw free throws. 

While Mobley was able to hoist up a pair of three-point shots, he was not able to make any of them from beyond the arc.  On the plus side, he did a very good job of making his free throws, so while Mobley may not be a good outside shooter right now, he shows the potential to develop a long-range jumper, as he was able to score from around the mid-range early on, and he also did a good job of making his free throws against Connecticut.

Plus, Mobley also displayed solid playmaking skills.  He is a very good passer that generally excelled at passing out of the post, and at finding open shooters to set up a wealth of scoring chances for them.  He showed a knack for passing out of double teams to get open teammates the basketball, and he also was able to find a cutter to get an early assist.  He also tended to throw crisp, accurate interior passes and he would patiently get his teammates the basketball.  However, he did commit a couple of passing turnovers, though.  After posting up once when doubled, he immediately threw a ball out to the corner, except no one was there, and the ball sailed out of bounds, as he committed the turnover due to miscommunication.  Another time, he threw a pass that got deflected and intercepted on a separate possession.

Mobley also was able to get his fair share of boards in this game, and he managed to haul in multiple boards on both ends of the floor.  He didn’t really grab as many rebounds as expected and he will still need to add strength to be able to handle stronger players, but he generally excelled at making plays on both ends of the floor.

Also, he played fairly good defense against Connecticut.  Mobley did a great job of blocking shots in this game, as he would rotate to swat them off of drives to get numerous stops for his team.  He was active at contesting jumpers as well as shots in the paint to force plenty of misses.  He also managed deflect a pass to a teammate to help his team get a steal.  Sometimes though, he would get beat off the dribble, which would lead his team to commit fouls around the basket.  He also had some trouble defending opponents in the post, as he would give up deep position, which would lead his team to allow scores at times.

Overall, Evan Mobley had a solid showing in his team’s loss to Connecticut.  He generally excelled as an interior player, and he did a good job of passing the ball and blocking shots in this game.  He also showed a tremendous knack for drawing free throws to often get to the foul line.  He will need to add more strength to be able to handle more physical players in games, but he is a top 5 talent that looks to have the skills to be a star player in the NBA.

Connecticut’s James Bouknight showed off a silky, smooth jump shot and a solid all-around game to help lead his team to a close win over USC.
Sue Ogrocki/AP, via The Stamford Advocate)

Connecticut’s 6-5 sophomore guard, James Bouknight also put forth a solid performance in this game, as his stellar shooting in the first half and solid all-around skills helped lead his team to a narrow win over USC.  He is an athletic, skilled sharpshooter that can put up points in a hurry, but he also played unselfishly, and he also showed off some defensive skills when he was on the court.

Bouknight did a good job of knocking down jumpers to provide floor spacing for his team on offense.  He was able to reel off three quickly made, three-point shots from downtown, and he showed that he can knock down outside shots off the catch and dribble.  He was able to make a pair of pull-up threes, and he also ran off the ball to knock one down early in this game.  However, he struggled more to make mid-range jumpers, but his stellar ability to make threes really helped ignite and jump start Connecticut’s offense in this game.

He also did a fairly good job of scoring on quick drives to the hoop.  Bouknight is a quick, agile guard that can consistently get to the rim to score the basketball.  He was able to score on a crafty floater, and he also used a pump fake and then drove in to score on an acrobatic reverse layup while getting an extra free throw another time.  Bouknight also showed that he wasn’t afraid of contact, and he would go hard to the rim to draw plenty of free throws.  He did tend to take some difficult shots, as he had a couple of his shots blocked.  He also missed on a tough reverse layup off of a cut, as he was caught too far underneath the basket.

Bouknight displayed perhaps adequate playmaking skills.  He is an unselfish player that handles the ball well, and he would tend to throw sharp interior passes to set up plenty of scoring chances for his teammates.  He also did a decent job of passing off the dribble, as he was able to consistently find the open man.  However, he did commit a few ball-handling turnovers, as he can go in too fast and be prone to rush plays at times, and he also had his pass deflected and intercepted another time.

Also, Bouknight did a very good job of rebounding the basketball, as he would hustle to get boards on both ends of the floor, and he would sometimes push the ball up the floor to create transition scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.

Plus, he also played decent defense in this game.  He was an active defender that has good ball location skills.  He did a good job of poking balls away from opposing ball handlers, and he was able to get a steal and nearly forced another turnover due to possessing good instincts and awareness to do so.  On the downside, he struggled to guard taller, bigger players in this game.  He tried to contest a three, but ended up allowing a basket to a taller shooter, as his opponent was able to shoot over him to make the shot.  He also was caught on a switch when defending in the post against bigger, stronger player, and he ended up having to foul his opponent inside.

In all, James Bouknight had a solid showing, as he provided instant offense, and his all-around skills helped lead Connecticut to stave off a late second half rally by USC to get the win over them in the Roman Legends Classic.  Bouknight is a very skilled swingman that can shoot and score the basketball, and he could be a solid pick for an NBA team in the mid first round range of the 2021 draft.

Other Notes:

Connecticut was able to secure a narrow win over USC due to solid first-half shooting of James Bouknight, but also due to the strong rebounding, defense, and inside scoring prowess from their senior big men, Josh Carlton and Isaiah Whaley.
Jessica Hill/AP, via Journal Inquirer)

Connecticut’s senior big men, Josh Carlton and Isaiah Whaley both played very well to help their team get a narrow victory over USC.  Both Carlton and Whaley are strong, mobile players that excelled at scoring in the post, and they also really excelled at scoring on tip-ins and put backs after getting many offensive rebounds in this game.  Also, both rebounded and defended well, as they excelled as interior players on both ends of the floor.  They both played well against USC, and their games looked to be pretty similar, that it seemed at times hard to tell them apart.

Of the two, Carlton looked to be the better passer, as he showed the ability to pass out of the post to get some assists.  Whaley looked to take more jumpers, and while he didn’t make a three, he showed a good ability to make mid-range shots.  Carlton looked to score in the post more on power moves and on jump hooks, as where Whaley looked to use more agility, as he used a spin move to score on a turnaround jumper. Both of them showed off solid defensive skills, as they both excelled at blocking and contesting shots in the post to force misses.  Sometimes though, they would commit fouls and allow scores when defending plays in the paint.

In all, both Josh Carlton and Isaiah Whaley had strong performances to help lead Connecticut to a tough win over USC.  Whaley looked to be faster and showed a better jump shot.  Carlton looked to be more powerful and he appeared to be a better passer out of the post.  Both of them excelled as athletic, high-motor players in this game, and their interior play and physicality made it difficult for USC to defend or rebound inside the paint.  Both Carlton and Whaley played well in this game, and they may have the skills to be rotational big men in the NBA.

USC’s 6-8 junior swingman, Drew Peterson is an athletic, energetic player that excelled as a scorer around the basket in this game.  He got the ball on a cut to score on a dunk early on, and he also showed a knack for scoring and drawing free throws on quick drives to the hoop. 

He also rebounded the ball fairly well.  On the downside, he didn’t really show much of a jump shot from outside of the paint area, and Peterson missed his only three-point attempt.  Defensively, he didn’t look to be too noticeable on that end of the floor. Overall, Peterson had a fairly good game in his team’s loss to Connecticut, and as he looked to be one of the best players on USC’s team in this game, Peterson may have the skills to compete for a roster spot in the NBA one day.

Connecticut’s 6-1 junior guard, R.J. Cole had a decent showing in his team’s win over USC.  Though he wasn’t efficient as a scorer, Cole seemed to do everything else well, as he made solid decisions to help his team on both ends of the floor.

For the positives, Cole showed a solid ability to knock down three-point shots from beyond the arc. He used a hesitation move to make a pull-up three early on, and he also made a deep three from way out another time.  Cole showed the range to make outside shots, and he can make them from long-range.  However, he missed on all of his two-point shots, as he struggled to score off the dribble when taking the ball to the rim. 

He displayed decent playmaking skills.  Cole would look to find open shooters to get the ball to them, and he was able to collect his fair share of assists.  He did throw an inaccurate lob pass that sailed out of bounds once, but he generally showed that he can effectively run the team at the point.

He also did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  Cole also played fairly good defense.  He was able to poke a ball away from an opposing ball handler to get a steal, and he also would contest mid-range jumpers to help his team force misses.  On the downside, he would sometimes be over-aggressive, as he was prone to committing reach-in fouls when guarding opposing ball handlers.

Overall, R.J. Cole wasn’t quite efficient as a scorer in this game, but he ran the team well at the point, and generally made solid team plays to help them get the win over USC.  While he may not be an elite prospect, his solid ability to make decisions and effectiveness as a game manager could allow him to end up being a backup point guard in the NBA.

USC’s sophomore big man, Isaiah Mobley put forth an uneven performance in his team’s loss to Connecticut.  He showed an adequate ability to score in the post in this game.  He can score on jump hooks, but he also was a bit inconsistent as a scorer on offense, and he also tended to miss on mid-range jumpers further away from the basket.

He also generally rebounded and defended fairly well.  Mobley was able to deflect a couple of passes, and he also blocked a shot in the post to a teammate due to good timing.  He also can jump on loose balls to help his team get steals, and he also contested a three to force a miss.  On the downside, sometimes he would get outmuscled when defending in the post, which would cause his team to commit fouls and allow scores.

Overall, Mobley is a skilled big man that will need to extend his shooting range, but he will need to be a more disciplined defender in games to avoid foul trouble.  If he can extend his shooting range out to beyond the three-point line, he could increase his draft stock and improve his odds to succeed in the NBA.

Connecticut’s 6-6 junior swingman, Tyrese Martin showed off versatile scoring skills in his team’s win over USC, and he also defended well.  He can score off the dribble and in the post, and he also scored on a nifty up and under move after getting the ball in the high post.  He also was able to make an open spot-up three to show his shooting range.  Plus, he also defended well.  In this game, he was able to block a shot off of a drive, and he also deflected a pass out of bounds.  On the downside, he did commit a couple of ball-handling turnovers on offense.

Overall, Tyrese Martin is a fairly athletic, energetic player that can score, rebound, and defend in games. He will need to make outside shots more consistently in games, but he could end up being a potential second round pick whenever he decides to declare to enter the NBA draft.

Connecticut’s 6-9 senior forward, Tyler Polley did not play very well at all in this game, as he was held scoreless in his team’s win over USC.  He didn’t play much, but he missed all of his threes, had his floater blocked another time, and he tended to pick up quick fouls, as he committed a charging foul off of a drive, and had trouble defending opponents in one-on-one situations.  Overall, this was not a great game for Polley. On the other hand, he has had a decent track record as he shot the three-ball well in his first three seasons at Connecticut, and his size and shooting ability could enable him to compete for a roster spot in the NBA sometime down the road.

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